Aristotle's Two Cities: Reducing Diversity to Homogeneity

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Gueremen R.

POLIS, vol.31, no.1, pp.59-73, 2014 (Journal Indexed in AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 31 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2014
  • Doi Number: 10.1163/20512996-12340003
  • Title of Journal : POLIS
  • Page Numbers: pp.59-73
  • Keywords: Aristotle, citizenship, justice, best regime, government, democracy, oligarchy, happiness


It has often been argued, in scholarly debate, that Aristotle's denial of citizenship to the working population of his ideal city in Book VII of the Politics constitutes a fundamental injustice. According to this view, although it is true that their way of life prevents them from living a morally virtuous life, it does not follow that the working people are naturally devoid of the human qualities required for such a life. So, rather than finding a just way to distribute citizenship among the diversity a city's population would naturally exhibit (as he does, to a certain extent, in Book III), Aristotle would commit himself to oligarchic measures in Book VII. In this article, it is argued that the main concern of Book VII is less with a just determination of the extent of citizenship (unlike Book III) than with conceiving the most efficient way for a city to be happy: this consists in establishing a community composed of individuals who lay claim to happiness in the same way and to the same degree. In other words, it consists in reducing the diversity of Book III to a certain kind of homogeneity.